Boys Plays @ Barons Court Theatre, London

cast list
Matt Firth
Phil Price
Graham Townsend
Gareth Watkins

directed by
John Pinckard & Peter Bull
To the Barons Court Theatre for a double bill of homosexual two-handers written and directed for an expected homosexual audience. QX Magazine are now sponsoring Shamelessboyz, a company of (you guessed it) shameless boys who, a couple of times each year, descend on Fulham to get naked and explore what it is to be gay. The theme this time is hero worship.

Each year there seems to be a role for youthful founding member – and acrobat – Phil Price, whose wide-eyed, boyish northern charm works a treat on London audiences every time. In the first of tonight’s offerings, Jack Heifner’s Boy’s Play, Price gets to play Joe, one of two naive teenagers seeking their own space in a crowded metropolis for… well, they’ll find that out when they get there.

Playing opposite is the relatively strapping Matt Firth as Tom, a boy who prefers a curious belief in alien spacecraft to the life of unfulfilled teenage angst he’s faced with. The two arrive in a clearing and consider life, the universe and things that fly about in it. As they chat, that boyish subject of cock sizes springs up, but neither enjoys enough life experience to know decisively what they want or how to get it. Tantalisingly, as their shared bottle of JD is emptied of its brain-sozzling contents, they approach the obvious.

They never quite get there. An unsatisfying conclusion involving a fateful swim out into a lake, Joe following his hero Tom despite his better instinct, leaves the audience none the wiser as to their fate – did they drown, poor lambs? – and up go the lights. Rather like hero worship, it’s all so much less than the mind’s eye promised.

More dramatically involving is the Peter Bull-directed Extra Virgin – not least as it begins with sex on stage as the audience return from the interval. Gareth Watkins – another Shamelessboyz regular – plays Elias, a jack-the-lad type enjoying the flat of the excellent Graham Townsend’s Noah, a trick found in the virtual meat market that is Gaydar. Their casual encounter concluded, it transpires through shades and episodes that Noah knew Elias all along and has a dark secret to expose.

Tension is much to the fore, with the actors not only making use of every last inch of the tiny cellar theatre’s limiting confines but convincing in their parts utterly. An increasingly contrived plot seems set only to achieve a fantastical conclusion, but Bull’s pacy direction and the commitment of the actors pull it off with gusto.

Shamelessboyz continue to reinforce their position as the premier gay theatre company producing new material on the London fringe today, and with an expanded international programme now taking in Milwaukee and Chicago, continued success seems assured. That they have actors and crew capable of pulling off more than such selective works as these seems not to bother them – a blessing for their core punters, but perhaps something of a curse for a wider audience too.

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